Player: J.C. Hassenauer
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Experience: 1 Year
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2020 Salary Cap Hit: $610,000
2020 Season Breakdown:
It would be fair to say that J.C. Hassenauer’s 2020 season was an unexpected one, when considering the fact that it consisted of him not only making the 53-man roster, spending the entire season there, ultimately working his way into the role of top backup, but also starting four games.
Originally undrafted out of Alabama a few years back, Hassenauer first came onto the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in the Spring of 2019 when he was signed following the shuttering of the AAF. He didn’t make the team, or even the practice squad, initially, but after Patrick Morris was claimed off waivers, he did join the practice squad. He even finished the year as the backup to B.J. Finney at center for the finale after Maurkice Pouncey was injured.
With Finney gone, the Steelers signed Stefen Wisniewski in free agency as a veteran interior reserve, but he would get injured in the first game and wouldn’t play for the team again. After he got healthy enough to play, they opted to release him.
One has to assume that was due at least in part because they were comfortable with Hassenauer, given that he was the only player remaining on the roster who was experienced at playing center. He ended up starting three games at center for Pouncey, and another at left guard.
With that said, he didn’t exactly blow the doors off or anything over the course of his 220 offensive snaps played. In fact, there were certainly times at which he was clearly struggling. But he was asked to do far more than expected when he made the initial 53-man roster as the ninth lineman and a would-be healthy scratch.
Free Agency Outlook:
With one year of accrued experience, Hassenauer is only an exclusive rights free agent, and will be for the next two years as well, which means that, provided that the Steelers extend him an offer, he is not permitted to deal with other clubs.
Given Pouncey’s retirement and the utter lack of anybody else who can play center, not to mention the general dearth of depth, it stands to reason that the team will certainly extend him a minimum value offer and bring him back for the 2021 season. But they would probably prefer if he is in that ninth lineman role.